A Complicated Kindness

Barbara Taylor writes:

Nomi Nickel, the 16-year-old narrator of Miriam Toews’s A Complicated Kindness, is one of the damned. Abandoned by her family, betrayed by her boyfriend, shunned by her community, she sits alone in an empty house, dreaming of lost happiness. This is the unpropitious end-scene from which Toews, winner of the 2004 Canadian Governor General’s Literary Award, unspools a blackly comedic tale of teenage life in East Village, a one-church Mennonite town in southern Manitoba where pastors rule and apostates receive no quarter.

We’re Mennonites . . . the most embarrassing sub-sect of people to belong to if you’re a teenager . . . Imagine the least well-adjusted kid in your school starting a breakaway clique of people whose manifesto includes a ban on the media, dancing, smoking, temperate climates, movies, drinking, rock’n’roll, having sex for fun, swimming, make-up, jewellery, playing pool, going to cities, or staying up past nine o’clock. That was Menno all over. Thanks a lot, Menno.

(LRB 2 June 2005)

Other Titles of Interest